Red Rover, Red Rover . . . Children's Games

Anyone remember this game? I had a dream about it last night, though I haven't played it in years. And as I understand it, it's been banned from most playgrounds because of the possibilities for injury. I can understand, I suppose—I broke my best friend's collar bone when we were playing King of the Mountain—but it's a shame there's a whole class of playground game no longer allowed or valued . . . I mean, they keep telling us we and our children need more exercise, but then they tell us not to run because we'll get hurt.

Turns out Wikipedia has, as it does about most things, an entry on Red Rover. I was curious because I've never been sure how common or widespread a game it was. Well, and then this sent me down the rabbit hole of looking up all those other games we used to play as kids. A lot of those listed at the bottom of that Wiki page are things I've never heard of, or games I've heard of but never played and am not even sure how to play . . . And then a lot more of them are games I simply haven't thought about in ages. Mary Mack and London Bridge and all those. Do kids ever play any of these any more?

I always liked Red Light, Green Light and Simon Says, probably because I was a bossy child and enjoyed telling people what to do. I didn't like games like Musical Chairs and Duck, Duck, Goose because there was something inherently offensive to me about games where people were either left out or singled out. I didn't realize that then, of course, but I see it clearly now. I have a strong dislike of anything that smacks of favoritism.

Seven Up, too. Remember that? "Heads up, seven up!" Teachers used to have us play this when they were tired of teaching and/or we couldn't go out for recess. That was the point I'd ask to be allowed to go to the library instead.

There's not really any more point to this post. Just a curiosity. One has to wonder about dreams, and why something so old would surface now, what bizarre subconscious process would prompt such a thing.

Think I'll go teach the kids how to play Red Rover now.


Books: What I'm Reading Now

So I have a few books stacked on my table at the moment, and I'm in various stages of progress with all of them.

I'm still trying to finish The Dante Club. But the coming summer and nice weather makes it feel like a bad fit. And (for those of you who haven't read my previous post about it) I can't read it right before bed because it gives me the most grotesque dreams.

I've been asked to read and review Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol. In my defense, I did start reading it. And I don't hate it or anything, but it's not really holding my attention either. I think it's one of a series, so maybe I'm suffering for not having read the others first.

Then I picked up Swoon from the library, which is a nonfiction book that looks at that je ne sais quoi some men have that attracts women. I had this idea it might help me as a writer (the author talks about stereotypes like the Alpha Male and how those aren't actually what women go for), but as I'm reading it I'm remembering that I don't really write romantic male leads. I mean, Peter and Charles are romantic in their own ways, and David Styles and Alfred Keenan . . . Well, Alfred would probably be the closest thing to one of these charismatic types in Swoon. But anyway, this one isn't really keeping me captivated.

However, I have just started Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore (on my Kindle), and I'm enjoying it quite a lot. The narrator is fun and the store is very curious. Added bonus is that it's set in San Francisco. Like a lot of people, I like reading stuff set in places I know and to which I can relate. (The film equivalent of this is when a movie is shot someplace you've lived or are very familiar with and you feel the need to exclaim, "I've been there!" and "Hey!" every time you recognize a landmark.) Anyway, this book definitely does have my full attention. I suspect it will be a quick read.

Books: The Legend of Harry Potter

I am currently reading my seven-year-old son the Harry Potter books, one chapter at a time, each night before bed. I've read them all before, of course, but it's something else to see it through the eyes of a young child, or at the least someone much younger than I was when I read the books myself—someone within the target demographic, I suppose, though the Harry Potter franchise certainly shattered the idea that kids' books were only for kids.

The other day, Alexander said to me, "Well, some say Harry Potter was real and some say he wasn't."


Me: "Um, no. He wasn't real."

Alexander: "But that's how it is with legends, you know. Some people think they really happened and some say they're just stories."

Me: "Okay, yes, but Harry Potter is really just a story. He's not a legend."

Despite continued conversation on the subject, I'm not certain my son is convinced Harry Potter didn't (or doesn't) exist. Or, at the very least, that there isn't a Hogwarts somewhere in the world, and that when he turns ten or eleven, an owl will arrive with a letter for him. Universal Studios would blow his mind.

It's funny because Alexander is an extremely rational child, very serious. We discuss things like string theory, and he has already decided to go to CalTech (as soon as possible, in fact, as he was asking the other day if they'd take him at age fourteen . . .) But he's also still a child, and willing in that way of children to accept things like magic and dragons as a natural part of the world. These things are, to him, very possible and believable. Even when string theory is not. (Vibrating strings? Sure, okay. Prove it.)

In any case, I'll continue to enjoy reading these books to him for as long as he'll allow it. He could read them for himself, of course, but he likes that I do all the voices. We've read The Hobbit (and then he re-read it again on his own), and some Judy Blume, and after Harry Potter, Alexander wants to do The Lord of the Rings . . . Not sure I have the stamina for those, though. I suggested Frankenstein, thinking to get in some old-school classics, but for whatever reason my young scientist is very, very bothered by that story and refuses to hear it. Maybe I'll try some Diana Wynne Jones on him (Chrestomanci is a favorite of mine) . . . Gotta get it all in now, while he'll let me. Though I can console myself with the fact that there are yet two more little ones waiting in the wings, and they'll be over Dr. Seuss soon enough and ready for legends of their own.


Television: Dogtato

My two young children enjoy an animated show called Dogtato. It's in Japanese, and even though I turn on the subtitles for them they are not yet readers, so I'm not sure how much of it they really understand.

If you haven't seen Dogtato—and I'm going to err on the side of assuming you haven't—it's a show about a dog potato and his other half-animal, half-vegetation friends (like Croconion, who is a crocodile onion, and Dogtato's girlfriend who is part hedgehog and part sweet potato). It's strange, but my kids find it weirdly fascinating, maybe because they can't understand the dialogue and so are exercising their minds by trying to follow the action. I'd like to think they'll come out of repeated viewings (they ask to watch it pretty often) with a smattering of Japanese, but that's probably hoping for too much. I speak a rusty smattering of basic Japanese and French, but the kids haven't seemed to catch on to any of it, except to figure out that I slip into French when I'm really, really angry.

Anyway, the thing I want to focus on here is an episode of Dogtato in which a group of the characters visit Straight Land. The king of Straight Land insists everything and everyone be, well, straight. The citizens of Straight Land go so far as to gather in the streets and shout, "Hooray for being straight!" It's more than a little disconcerting.

I know, of course, that even if my kids could understand the Japanese being spoken, they would not make a connection between the Straight Land episode and any kind of indoctrination regarding sexual orientation, but still . . . It's so in your face and over the top as to be simultaneously hilarious and unconscionable. (You can see it for yourself by downloading it here. I have a DVD, but I'm guessing since this site caters to English-speaking viewers it will have dubbing or subtitles?)

I'm not saying a discourse on homosexuality was the agenda behind the episode; I don't know enough about Japanese culture to editorialize on that. I'm just saying—if that wasn't the intent of the writers and animators—sometimes things really do get lost in translation.

As the kids get older and more savvy, I'll probably need to prepare myself for the questions and comments . . . But then again, as they get older they're less likely to want to watch Dogtato anyway. I suppose there will always be something, though, some show or pop musician keeping me on my parental toes. They've shown some interest in Card Captor Sakura . . .


Television: Revolution, "Children of Men"

Wasn't that a movie with Clive Owen?

And whatever happened to Clive Owen anyway?

Rachel has gone into Monroe's tent armed with a grenade. Unfortunately, it fails to do any useful kind of damage. Like, you know, killing Monroe. And in a turn of events, Rachel's palm print is able to open The Tower whereas Randall Flynn's could not. Flynn blames Grace, who had been left at The Tower . . . Remember the Elevator of Doom?

But it's really Aaron from 24.

Anyway, Rachel has managed to make things worse instead of better. Just like she makes this show worse instead of better.

Miles & Friends have arrived at The Tower, too. Like a gossipy teenage girl, Neville is keeping track of who likes who: Jason and Charlie, Miles and Rachel.

Oh, and then they stumble across Aaron. (Not the one from 24.) Good work calling Neville a dick, though, that was kinda awesome in just how offhanded he was about the whole thing.

Speaking of the Elevator of Doom . . . Seriously, it's like one of those FPS video games. You know, like Doom.

Monroe, Rachel, Flynn and their extras are set upon by the Tower guards. Monroe and Rachel manage to lock themselves into a kind of presidential bunker, and she fails yet again to kill him. Meanwhile, Neville and Jason set up some kind of elaborate bomb in a tent? And Not-24-Aaron uses info from Dr. Warren's book to open The Tower so they can go in after Rachel (and Monroe and Flynn).

Are you with me so far?

Miles, His Aaron, and Charlie stumble upon the carnage and are faced with The Elevator coming their way.

And Monroe is desperate to get into a locked gun cabinet but Rachel refuses to help him because she blames him for Danny's death. (And not without reason.) This opens up "confession time" between Monroe and Rachel, and he admits he has a son, and that he worries what that son would think of him.

They're coil guns, btw, that use electromagnets instead of gunpowder. Miles, his Aaron, and Charlie (oh, and Nora, who I somehow totally missed earlier), are hiding from 24 Aaron's guys and trying to reach an armory that Miles's Aaron found on a map.

And Neville and Jason have been taken by Monroe's men. Neville has a chat with Riley (some guy who looks a lot like Rhys Coiro) and tries to incite riot, but Riley doesn't buy it. At first. But he comes back with twelve people ready to back Neville as a new leader, so long as Neville gets rid of Franklin. (Ben Franklin? He once accosted me at Faneuil Hall in Boston, so yeah, he is a problem.)

Rachel finally helps Monroe open the gun case, and Monroe saves Charlie from one of the guards. At this point we've got a bunch of different groups of people in The Tower, running around with guns. That's pretty much all there is to know, up 'til the moment Miles and Monroe once again face off, each with his own heavy artillery.

Grace comes out to save Rachel, her Aaron, and Charlie. Grace has her own Aaron, the one from 24. They've got some kind of religious need to keep The Tower safe, particularly Level 12. And they burn Dr. Warren's journal.

And speaking of setting things on fire, apparently there's a one in a billion chance turning the power back on will set the world on fire. Wait, what? Literally? Are we talking all at once, or would it start in one place and spread? 'Cuz I might have to change my vote, depending.


Television: Smash, "The Nominations; The Tonys"

And now we say our sad farewells to Smash, which after two seasons is closing its curtains. The soapy musical was unlike anything else on television, which isn't always a good thing, though here I think they simply failed to find their audience. Or maybe they did find it, but it wasn't big enough to sustain the show.

As the series ends, we have Karen in Hit List going up against Ivy in Bombshell. Both shows are on Broadway, and both are gunning for Tony noms (and, ideally, awards). The writers of Smash tend to be very diplomatic—they like it when everyone wins so no "team" has cause to complains—so going in (I'm blogging as I watch) I'm curious to see if there is a tie of some kind in the future.

Things start off with Karen winning the Outer Critics' Circle award, and Tom getting the same for Director. Or, rather, here is at least one tie: Derek and Tom are co-winners. In fact, Hit List all but swept, with Bombshell winning only two.

However, Hit List is on the verge of sinking as Ana's lawyer starts swinging with a wrongful termination lawsuit (remember the Daisy thing?) days before the Tony noms. And in the meantime, Ivy is trying to decide whether to keep the baby—though when she tries to tell Derek, he gives her the brush-off; he's got plenty on his plate as it is.

Karen tries talking to Daisy, but of course Daisy defends her reasons for sleeping with Derek and then blackmailing him into giving her Ana's part. After all, Daisy has worked ten years to land a leading role . . . And when all else fails, I guess?

I was hoping in all this to be able to ignore the ongoing farce between Tom and Patrick Dylan, which is ridiculous without being all that funny. But it won't go away.

We also get a look at the escalating hostilities between Hit List and Bombshell as the media gets involved, printing quotes out of context, and fans take camera-phone video of ill-considered remarks. (Pervasive ideas include: Julia wrote more of Hit List than Kyle did, the only reason Hit List got so much attention is because Kyle died, Ivy is a mere imitation artist as opposed to a real actress, Bombshell is traditional and safe whereas Hit List is new, fresh, and edgy.) The Outer Critics' Circle luncheon ends in a roundtable of people spewing invectives at one another until Mama Eileen makes them all go sit down and behave.

Derek sets Ana up with a big audition (without her knowing, but when she finds out she decides to go public with her lawsuit against him . . . or threatens to . . . then changes her mind). When Ivy overhears Ana talking to Derek, she decides against telling him about the baby: "You've never done the right thing, Derek. And you never will." Well, he can't if you don't give him the chance.

Tony Noms: It's Kyle versus Julia for book. Tom versus Derek for director. Ivy has one for supporting actress in that Liaisons show and one for best actress for Bombshell. And of course Karen has a nod for actress as well. Totals: Bombshell 12, Hit List 13.

And just as Derek gets three nominations, he opts to come clean to a reporter.


A ensemble version of Queen's "Under Pressure" proves very uneven.

Jimmy decides not to perform at the Tonys and fails to pick up his tickets for the show. We discover he's since packed up his apartment in preparation for a getaway, though Karen makes him promise to pick her up and go to the Tonys together.

And Derek? Holed up in his apartment, refusing to leave. When Karen can't draw him out, she sends in Ivy.

Seems like everyone's having to face up to something as Julia talks to Frank about her relationship with Michael. And Eileen finds out Nick has been released from prison some three weeks prior and tracks him down to get some closure.

Oh, and none of the supporting cast wants to perform with Daisy at the Tonys, so Jerry gives Daisy a solo. Birds of a feather . . . Fingers crossed she crashes and burns. Though she does end up winning a Tony.

Hey, remember when Ron Rifkin was on Alias?

Kyle wins for Hit List! Guess the writers of Smash wanted to make sure Kyle (and Jimmy) got his happy ending. Jimmy's acceptance on Kyle's behalf gets dangerously close to derailing when he starts talking about Kyle meeting Karen . . . But he manages to pull it together.

Yeah, that's your incidental music, dumbasses. (This is me to Tom and Julia when they win for Bombshell and are too busy chatting to realize it.)

Derek wins for choreography for Hit List. And thanks Ivy in his speech, saying she was the one who convinced him to go to the Tonys at all . . . And saying he loves her very much. (He also thanks the Tony voters for judging the work and not the man.)

Then Derek yanks Daisy from her solo and puts Karen and Jimmy in to perform. After all, if everyone already hates him, Derek figures it doesn't matter what he does any more. The number grows into an a cappella ensemble, very nicely done.

And then Patrick Dylan hits Tom and Julia up to write a movie musical. Tom, having developed a crush on PD, lands a kiss on him . . . And concludes PD isn't gay. (Well, and PD tells him, just to be clear.)

Ivy Lynn wins for best actress, which in the end makes sense because Smash began with Bombshell and should end with it, too—end with its success, and the unqualified success of one of its stars. It wins best musical as well.

The show coulda ended there. But it continues. Ivy talks to Derek and tells him about the baby. (And where am I going to get my Jack Davenport fix now, I wonder?) And Jimmy tells Karen about an O.D. he witnessed five years ago and that he turned himself in . . . Which is why he was clearing out his world. He's looking at some jail time. Julia gives Michael the letter about how much she's always loved him. Nick comes back to Eileen. Yes, "coming clean" is definitely the theme of this show.

And then we get a weird Ivy-and-Karen Smash duet? (I only say it because the big, lighted SMASH sign is hanging behind them.)

Well, we can't say they didn't give us some closure—at the least we get a sense of everyone's potential, the general directions of their lives. And we can't say Smash didn't entertain us. Sure, it was sometimes silly, sometimes downright dumb, but it was always fun. I'll miss it. There's nothing else like it on television, and considering how it floundered enough to make networks hesitate to take such a risk, there may never be again.


The Zach Braff Kickstarter Thing

So Zach Braff—a known actor/producer/director—tapped crowd funding outlet Kickstarter to raise $3.1 million for a pet project. This has people divided between two reactions:

A. "Good for him!"
B. "That asshole!"

I can see both sides, so let's review. We'll start with B.

A lot of people (mostly aspiring filmmakers) are upset that someone who has already made a name for himself, and who ostensibly has—if not the money itself—access to resources (studios, producers, financiers), would instead opt to use this independent means to raise funds for a project. The argument seems to be, "That's less for us!" And it's not entirely invalid. If a potential contributor only has so much money to donate, giving to a known entity like Braff may very well trump their giving to someone else. Braff also had the resources to get the word out about his campaign far more broadly than a lot of struggling indie writers/directors. He's been getting all the attention. (And by the way, this ongoing fuss is only giving him and his project more attention.)

Crowd sourcing or crowd funding has been seen by many who have dreams of working in the industry as a way to make that one, or two, or dozen films that will showcase their talents and break them in, get them noticed. But it's kind of like self-publishing. The easier it gets to make your own movie, the harder it is to get any one of them noticed unless it wins a bunch of awards (and even then it depends on which awards). And this is all assuming you can raise the money to begin with, which is difficult enough, even when going begging online. When everyone has a project, no one wants to give to anyone else. It's every man for himself. Sad but true. There are exceptions of course, but they only prove the rule.

On the flip side of this, crowd funding is used by many indie directors to keep from having to answer to a producer or studio about the final product. That is to say, when the money comes from a studio or production company, those entities want a say in what happens and how and when. They want to protect their investments and hopefully get a good return on them in the form of a film that makes money. But what's a writer or director to do when they want to make a movie that's not destined to be a blockbuster? When no one in the industry will sign on to make that movie? Or when they want to stay true to their artistic vision without interference from higher ups? Well, they ask friends, family, and strangers for the money in return for acknowledgement and a few prizes. That is, they crowd source.

Even indie directors who have made many films and could possibly get other forms of financial backing for their work, having proved their talents and abilities, still do this. They prefer to do it, for all the reasons I've listed in the above paragraph. They want control of the work. Final cut. A say in the casting. The ability to protect the script. &c. And these are the reasons (as I understand it) Braff says he wants to crowd fund his movie, too. So . . . Are the very people who do it for the same reasons going to fault him?

No. Again, it's the ones who have yet to make even that first film, or the ones who have only made one or two, and then a lot of these people haven't even tried to use Kickstarter themselves to fund any projects. They're more outraged at the idea of Braff using it than anything else. These are people who want to be part of the industry, the system, and can't understand someone who is in already wanting to go outside it. And I'm not disparaging them. I'm in the same place, still trying to break in, and my initial reaction was irritation too. But then I thought about it. And I thought about some of the indie directors I met at AFF who use crowd sourcing, even after six or ten or twelve films. And I concluded there are simply different ways to make a movie, and some ways are right for some films/people and others are right for others. Congress between the various sides and ways shouldn't be dammed up. Ideally, paths stay open on all sides.

Ideally. Though of course we all know how difficult it is to get to the top of that hill. At least the first time. You know how, when you drive somewhere new the first time, the trip seems long and sometimes confusing? But the next time you go, it's faster and easier. And the more often you go, the more routine it becomes. Yeah. It's like that.

Those of us who are still trying to get there the first time, well, good luck to us all. Braff made it up, now he's coming down for a bit, no rule against that, and it's his journey. Everyone gets their own. Everyone makes their own path.


Television: Fall 2013

So I'm finally getting around to looking at the schedule, and . . . Hmm.

I'll go by weekday. And I'm just looking at the networks here, you know, on the heels of their upfronts and such.


I know a lot of people are interested in this Almost Human show (FOX), but I don't really care about it. I mean, I like Karl Urban . . . But I'm already sick of J.J. Abrams. And the premise here doesn't interest me enough. But, like anything, it's quite possible I'll be told many time over it's so great and I have to see it. (Actually, if there's any way to ensure I don't watch something, it's to tell me it's so great and I have to see it. I'm contrary that way. I'm like, "Let me just prove to you that I can live forever and never see that.")

What I am interested in on Mondays this fall: Sleepy Hollow (FOX) and The Blacklist (NBC). While I feel like modern updates of old stories is starting to be gruesomely trendy, I'm curious enough to try Sleepy Hollow. And as for Blacklist, well, I'll watch James Spader in anything. Seriously. There's something mesmerizing about him.


It's all about Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (ABC), right? I will take Joss over J.J. pretty much every time. Other than that, I can't say I'm seeing anything on the schedule that lights my fire.


Well, here's where NBC has put Revolution, and they've moved it to 8:00. I still haven't decided if I'll be watching; Revolution mostly makes me miss FlashForward, which was just so much better.


Elementary (CBS) stays put in its 10:00 time slot. Also on CBS, airing at 9:00, The Crazy Ones. I'm curious about this one. The casting of Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar intrigues me. I'll probably give it a shot.

Michael J. Fox's new show (NBC, 9:30) is another one I'm likely to try. And what is this Reign show on CW?


I gave up on Grimm a while back (lost track of it in a cross-country move and didn't care quite enough to catch up), but Friday sees it followed on NBC by a new Dracula starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Unlike so many of the updates, this one is set in the 18th century. Seems like a natural companion to Grimm, and I might have a look, though vampires are easy to do badly, so this may, er . . . suck.

Other Possibilities

Okay, so I see a write-up for The Goldbergs and how it's about an 11-year-old boy in the 1980s. That has some nostalgia factor for me, I could give it a try (Tuesdays, ABC, directly after SHIELD).

And there's Hostages, which sounds intense in a 24 kind of way, but I don't know if I care enough to spend any time with it (CBS, Mondays).

I'm also curious about About a Boy (more 11-year-old boys, is that a new trend?), though it doesn't appear on the schedule at the moment. But I'm a fan of Hornby and I liked the movie . . . Will probably give it a go when it airs. Resurrection, too, sounds potentially creepy (in a good way), so I'll be looking for more on that when it comes out. And of course M Night's Whispering Pines. He may have lost some cachet, and I really hated Lady in the Water (like, hated in the way that it makes me angry to even think about the fact that movie exists), but I'm still game to try out anything else he does.

Looks like I'm leaning drama this season, which isn't surprising, though I'd love to find a show that could really make me laugh. Modern Family did it for a while, but I don't even watch it any more because it was getting less and less funny. I miss the absurdity of 30 Rock. And will have to wait until spring for more Community. Sigh.

What about you? What are you looking forward to come fall? And can you recommend something that will make me laugh?


Books: Souls United by Ann Merivale

As a curiosity, I'm reading a book about the nature of soul mates and twin souls at the moment. Truthfully, the bulk of the book thus far is a number of anecdotes the author uses to illustrate the dynamics of twin souls. As someone rather new to this philosophy, I do find it interesting and informative. Merivale at least does a novice like me the service of defining a few terms: Companion Soul Mate, Karmic Soul Mate, and Twin Soul. Who knew there were so many?!

I've long been intrigued by these ideas, since the time I was about nine or ten and a fortuneteller told me I'd once been an Egyptian priestess for Bastet. Most of my life people have told me how I remind them of a cat, and many people call me "Kitty" even though it's not nearly my name, so to have this woman give me a connection to that was very striking. But I grew up in a strict religious household and did not have the freedom to explore the idea any further.

Even years later it would take me a long time to be comfortable enough to think about, read about, and now blog about such notions. I honestly don't know what I believe, though I've had psychic friends give me many interesting details about my past lives and such. And I come from a place where magic is a way of life for many, so . . .

Anyway. This book. I like that Merivale gives these definitions, and I'm enjoying the "case studies" (if that's what they are), though there are a lot of them, and I'd like to read about maybe some Twin Souls who weren't so mature and enlightened, who maybe faced real challenges in finding their stride, or some people who weren't very spiritual and then had this hit them like a train. But maybe this only shows that you have to be relatively enlightened to even find your Twin Soul . . . Well, and I'm only halfway through the book, so maybe these kinds of stories are coming and I just haven't gotten to them yet.

Merivale also throws out a lot of names and suggests a lot of books, and it's enough to make one's mind swim. I suppose I should make a list or something.

What I'll probably do after finishing this one (and I really am enjoying it, by the way) is go find some more introductory type material. (Well, I did read one very basic book but it was too basic, so maybe I'm an intermediate.) Really, Merivale makes me want to try some of this regression therapy or something. But at the same time I'm starting to feel like I'm teetering on the edge of a rabbit hole, and I have enough to worry about in life without thinking about other lives to boot.

Here's the thing, though: I think everyone's had at least one encounter in life where they instantly liked or disliked someone the moment they saw or met them. That weird little shock to the system when your eyes meet a stranger's. I guess it's nice to think that might have meaning, however small. I'm not 100% convinced, mind you, but I'm exploring the idea. Thinking about writing a novel with that as part of the premise.

As for the book, I'd recommend it, even if only for the inspirational aspect of the stories it contains. And maybe the second half of it will have more of the answers I seek; I shall read on and discover.

ETA: Actually, the very next chapter I read swerved into a study of twin souls in which one of the pair was unwilling to acknowledge the bond. And another chapter I just read was of twin souls in which one had a drinking problem, forcing the other to evacuate the relationship despite the strong bond. Interesting. Though in some instances I feel like there's an effort to use spirituality as an excuse for bad decisions.

Secondary Characters

Cross posted from PepperWords.

This bloghop (go here to join) is about those characters that steal the show from the main act, either in books or movies. Which are your favorites?

I'll start with the easy ones, by which I mean ones I wrote. When writing The K-Pro I originally only conceived of Alfred, Mac, and Craig as so much wallpaper, and Liz in particular was only going to be "in passing." But they took on lives of their own! Alfred laid the groundwork for his own plot twist long before I consciously realized who he really was. And I was amazed when, in feedback, my readers loved Craig.

It's happening again in my current WIP, St. Peter at the Gate. A character that would have been someone Peter just passes in the lobby has become central to the story. It can be fun when these things happen, but frustrating too when they necessitate major changes . . . Though I've found more often than not that these characters step up to give the story depth and actually make things easier in the long run.

In terms of others' work, I think the examples are legion. Snape and Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books are just two. It's interesting to me the way people sometimes rally around potential villains like Snape, or Moriarty in the Sherlock Holmes canon. Well, and Anne Rice's Lestat is the supreme example of the villain becoming the hero. In Interview with the Vampire, he's certainly not sympathetic (though at the end he is pathetic), but he refused to leave Anne alone until she told his story . . . Many times over.

But this isn't meant to be an academic exercise, and if pressed to name my favorite secondary characters, I would say Louis (from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles) because, though he was central to the first book, he was sidelined most of the others, and I always loved him best. And, oddly, Polonius from Hamlet, whose homilies were amusing even if his character on the whole was a bit irritating. I also always wondered how fucked up Horatio must've been after all that . . . I like Marcus Brody (played by Denholm Elliot) in the Indiana Jones movies, too. And the romantic figure of Ashley in Gone with the Wind as the sort of grail Scarlett could never obtain, though that makes him more of an object than a character. Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn. Jareth in Labyrinth.

I don't know that I'd say any of the above "steal the show," though. Lestat does in Interview, certainly; Moriarty as depicted by Andrew Scott tends to take over any scene he's in, as does Rickman's Snape. It's easier to steal a scene when you're a villain. You've got a bit more freedom to act (though Snape goes the other way in being repressively cold).

I suppose the pinnacle of this would be Ricardo Montalban as Khan in the second (classic) Star Trek movie. I watched that film over and over as a kid, that one and #3 (which I also loved for some unaccountable reason, or maybe those were the only two we had on tape). No, I haven't seen the new film. Yes, I know the "secret." Which makes me slightly more reluctant to see it, actually, since Montalban looms so large in my childhood memory. He was, for me, the ultimate scene-stealing secondary character.


"Featured Screenwriter"

I'm a featured screenwriter on the I.S.A. site at the moment. I don't know what that means, exactly, but it sounds nice.

It's tricky work. I've had some wins, some great feedback, but that doesn't actually make it any easier to break into the industry. You'd think the accumulation would add up to something (won this award, got that great coverage), but . . . So far it remains rather amorphous. So I keep dividing my time between the screen and the printed page. After all, some stories are better told one way than another. Though a few very good stories can be told lots of interesting ways . . .

It's easy to say, "What's a girl gotta do in this town?" but the truth is, in this kind of work, one never stops having to prove oneself. Know what you've signed up for!


Television: Revolution, "Clue"

We're going the way of Raiders of the Lost Ark by giving Nora a new dress to wear when she goes to meet Monroe. Except she does it wrong. Instead of getting him drunk, she refuses the alcohol. Stupid.

After 21 days of torture, Nora finally breaks. Now Monroe knows about The Tower. Road trip! (Colm Feore should have delivered that line with more "spring break.")

Then the guy who was supposed to execute Nora brings her to the hospital, effectively returning her to Miles. So that she's able to warn him that Monroe knows everything. He in turn demands that the guy who brought Nora back—he was one of the people who worked with Rachel et al. on the project, but I can't remember his name—take him to The Tower, too, since Monroe (& Flynn) are already headed there.

Oh, and Jason takes time to meet with an old Militia buddy. Who apparently as "a job" for Jason.

Miles, Nora, and really just more people than should reasonably fit in a helicopter, stop at an old airfield for fuel and fall victim to the Plains People's particular form of justice (in short, they find the pilot murdered for tresspassing—but why not just suppose it would be that same guy who brought Nora back? or Jason, as part of his "work"?). Well, that's just where suspicion begins to fall when a dying team member manages to at least indicate that it was not a local. Therefore, by process of elimination . . . It must be one of their own.

I guess that's why this episode is called "Clue." (And yet still no Martin Mull.)

Meanwhile, Nora is still suffering from after effects of the drugs used on her during Monroe's interrogation. Having wandered off, Miles goes in search and finds her flat on the ground, her arm sliced and bloody, and her unable to remember what happened. Which means it can't be her. Because that's too easy.

Bloody knife found in Jason's pocket! And he's a known liar. Which means it probably isn't him, either.

The knife is stamped with AMD, as in Annapolis, Maryland. Fingering Henry as the culprit. (Turns out Monroe's people have his wife.)

Jason is the one to shoot Henry and save Miles in that fight, btw. But we lose that ex-project worker guy in the process (the one who brought Nora back); Henry kills him.

Oh, and over here? Rachel has killed a Militia guard and taken on the uniform, and now she's snuck into Monroe's tent with a grenade. Hooray!

Books: The House at Riverton

Kate Morton
Washington Square Press, 2009
468 pages
Trade Paperback

I picked this up as a curiosity more than a year ago, having found it in the remainders bin. I remember reading the back cover, peeking randomly at one or two pages of text, and deciding it might be worth the two dollars to bring it home. It has stayed on my shelf until about a week ago, when I became desperate for something to read, and nothing on my Kindle appealed to me. I pulled this one off the shelf—something I haven't read yet!—thinking only to have something to skim while sitting over my lunch. But then the book grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

The story is of Grace, nearly a century old in 1999. She once worked at the English estate known as Riverton, and a movie is being made about those days, particularly the tragic events that took place there in 1924. And of course this causes Grace to reminisce.

Morton, in the voice of Grace, has a lovely art with words, paints the most vivid and beautiful pictures. A reader can just as easily envision every scene of the book, and while most of the characters seem to fall toward stereotypes, Morton still manages to give them life and make them real, dimensional. Grace's own naïveté is almost beyond belief, but Morton only just manages to sell it, perhaps because Grace herself owns and admits it with the 20/20 hindsight of old age. Still, it does take her an astounding amount of time to come to the conclusion the readers (if they are astute) have reached within a handful of pages, pretty much from the moment Grace takes up working at Riverton at age fourteen.

It is not, however, a major plot point, this slow realization of Grace's. The true story is of the two Hartford sisters, Hannah and Emmeline. Grace goes from housemaid to attendant on the two girls and finally becomes Hannah's lady's maid, giving her a private view of the goings on within the household, and between the sisters in particular. In the end, that they should each fall in love with the same man (their dead brother's best friend! and a poet besides!) seems almost a given. But again, Morton's writing supersedes the tropes and clichés—even if the story culminates in a lakeside shooting on a summer's night at a Gatsby-like party. (And, no, it's not giving anything away to say so; that a tragedy, a shooting, at a party . . . These things are made clear early in the book. But Morton offers only the most tantalizing morsels about what actually happened until the very end.)

Fans of Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs may enjoy the setting, the world of wartime England as seen through the lenses of both the privileged and their servants. Romantics might enjoy Grace's affection for a fellow servant, and certainly the love triangle that surfaces toward the end of the book. For myself, I enjoyed all of it. Even the parts that I could guess at, even what I saw coming—Morton's prose rises above and makes even the obvious something to savor.


Television: Doctor Who, "The Name of the Doctor"

We watch Clara bounce through time in repeated attempts to save The Doctor. But apparently he's  never noticed her . . . Until now.

Also, some guy named Clarence (who seems to think he's Gollum) is in prison. He staves off execution by telling Vastra about The Doctor, giving away the location of The Doctor's greatest secret, prompting Vastra to make a "conference call." Jenny, Strax, Clara, and River Song all brought together via dream trance. But Jenny is murdered during their chat by some Buffy throw-backs who also threaten Strax and Vastra and tell Clara and River Song (you really kind of have to use both names with her, don't you?) that they must tell The Doctor to go to Trenzalore.

Apparently this is a bad idea, at least according to River Song.

The Doctor tells Clara it's where he's buried.

The TARDIS rears and bucks like an unhappy horse. (Good girl!) But The Doctor forces the issue and they crash land. In a soldiers' graveyard. River Song's grave is there, too. And a gigantic TARDIS, the TARDIS from the future, slowly growing like a rooted tree. And it is The Doctor's tomb.

Turns out River's (ha! one name! I did it!) grave is actually a secret entrance to The Doctor's tomb. But River really is dead, now existing only as so much collected data in a library.

The Great Intelligence, taking the form of Walter Simeon, brings Vastra, Strax, and a resuscitated Jenny to Trenzalore as well. He gives the age-old lecture about how The Doctor is really the murderer of millions, etc. He insists that The Doctor open the door to his own tomb. The Doctor is the only one who can do it, and the key is a word: The Doctor's name.

When The Doctor refuses, even as his friends are being heart-strangled, River Song speaks the name and opens the doors. (No, we don't get to hear it.) We do get to see The Doctor's "body," or basically what's left of his being, which is a collection of ropes of light that mark The Doctor's path, his travels through time and the universe. Simeon is determined to enter it, though The Doctor warns Simeon he will be destroyed if he does.

Simeon does it anyway, of course.

As he "rewrites" The Doctor's timeline, the lives and worlds The Doctor has saved begin to fall, cease to exist with no Doctor to have stood up for them.

And Clara realizes her duty is to go in after Simeon. Which is how, it turns out, she becomes The Impossible Girl. Fragmented over time in order to save The Doctor again and again.

And then The Doctor goes in after her.

Clara, having done her work (does this mean the Great Intelligence is finished? and are we ever going to get back to that Clarence/Gollum dude?), lands in a foggy part of The Doctor's "timestream," which is collapsing in on itself because The Doctor has entered it. He tells Clara he won't leave until he's got her, sends her the leaf that brought her parents together, is on the brink of saving her, and then John Hurt turns up.

Well, really it's The Doctor but without the name. That is to say, it's . . . the part of himself that never accepted, or perhaps rejected, his role as The Doctor. Kind of an evil twin, or one's dark half or whatever.

The Doctor (as we currently know him, in the form of Matt Smith) hauls Clara off. Apparently we're saving John Hurt for next season.


Not much of a story, really. After all the buildup about Trenzalore, I wanted and expected more. But the whole Anti-Doctor idea holds a modicum of appeal, if it's handled well. If not, it will likely play out like a bad soap opera. Guess we'll have to wait and see.


Movies: Immortal Beloved

Somehow I never saw this movie, probably because it came out in 1994 and I had a lot going on in my world at that time. Not a lot of time for movies (though I do recall seeing Stargate and Interview with the Vampire).

Anyway, I decided it was time to rectify this oversight. There are a lot of newer movies I could have stopped to watch, and in twenty years I'll probably be saying to myself, I should get around to watching that, but for tonight it was Immortal Beloved's turn.

I don't know much about Beethoven, or I didn't going in at least. I knew he was a composer, and I knew he'd gone deaf. And I knew he had at least one brother, and a nephew that he thought (perhaps had reason to believe) was his son. That was the sum total of my knowledge of Beethoven. Well, except I knew he'd written two of my favorite pieces of music: "Moonlight Sonata" and "Ode to Joy."

Oh, and I'd heard or read somewhere that there was a lingering mystery around a letter Beethoven had written to his "Immortal Beloved."

I'm a romantic at heart, so the idea of this love story of the ages appealed to me. And the movie was a good one. Slower in pace by today's standards, but the frame story keeps it from dragging too much by allowing things to jump around a bit. As if to say, "Get to the good parts."

The moment that made me realize the filmmaker had done his job well was the moment I found myself saying, "That's really sad." Because it's one thing to know in a textbook kind of way that Beethoven was deaf. (And I grew up with that Monty Python skit as a primary source of Beethoven info, you know, the one with the mynah bird. Funny. But hardly pathos inspiring.) But in the scene in which Beethoven asks Erdödy to "write it, please"—those three words, the intonation and delivery, it really struck me how terrible it must have been for him to have lost his hearing.

Less inspiring were the actual romances, which somehow fell flat with me. I didn't feel the passion as much there, though I don't know if that's because of the script or the acting or directing . . . The stuff between Beethoven and his nephew carried more emotional weight.

Anyway, though it failed to spark the romantic in me, I can now mark this one off my "meant to see" list.

Random Sh*t People Who Want to Work/Play with Me Should Know Before Proceeding

I update this periodically, so be sure to check back regularly. Along with my FAQs.
  1. If you spend any amount of time with me, you will end up with my hair on your person. There is no escaping it. I am a forensics team's wet dream. I could kill a person and, f*** a hairnet, I could be wearing a Haz Mat suit, and my hair will find a way out of it.
  3. I'm intense. I don't mean to be, it just happens that way. Maybe it's the Asperger's. Some people get excited by it, some are afraid of it, and a lot of people are both excited and afraid. But I promise I don't bite . . . often.
  5. I'm a natural mimic. It's just how I'm wired. So if you speak with an accent and I start speaking with an accent, don't take it personally. And if I randomly cluck like a chicken, well, that's just something I do. (Also: meowing. 'Cuz I like cats.)
  7. I also quote Shakespeare at random. Mostly Hamlet, because that's the play I've acted in most, but also a little bit of Twelfth Night. And others. I used to be a member of a Shakespeare troupe, and I've also taught it, so . . . I quote it often.
  9. I don't clean. Much. Okay, here's the thing: I do dishes because I get skeeved out by food stuck to things. I clean my bathroom because, Jesus people, all that hair. A day doesn't go by that I don't do at least one load of laundry (I love clothes and use a lot of them). But I don't dust because, while I'm allergic to a lot of things, dust isn't one of them, and I figure if it leaves me alone I might as well return the favor. And I don't vacuum because I hate the noise. I'll sweep, though. Because, damn, all that hair.
  11. I don't cook. Which isn't to say I can't cook—I'm from Southern Louisiana, and we learn to cook from the time we can sit in a high chair and watch Grandmama in the kitchen. I'm talking real food, too, like fresh from the butcher, or even (on occasion) going out back and killing one of the chickens. But though I love to eat, I don't much enjoy the process of making the meal. Probably has to do with the chicken thing.
  13. Speaking of food, I'm picky about mine. I'm not a vegetarian or anything. I'd like to be—I love animals—but I know my limits, and I like cheeseburgers. But I won't touch a piece of toast if it's more than slightly browned and isn't evenly spread with butter (sometimes peanut butter, depending on my mood). And I won't touch chicken unless I know it's cooked through. (Yes, I'm hung up on the whole chicken thing.) I'm also one of those people who goes through the cabinets and fridge to make sure nothing's been in there too long. I check expiration dates on things. I'm a little mental about that.

  14. I love to sing. If you're going to be around me, you'll have to put up with it.
  16. I swear. Not as much as one might expect from the daughter of Naval officers, but more than one would expect from the daughter of a pastor. I'm both, so I fall somewhere in between. I figure it's a matter of cosmic balance.
  18. I have chronic insomnia. Both in that I can't fall asleep and I also can't stay asleep. Which sucks because (a) I love to sleep, and (b) I usually have really kick-ass dreams. I actually look forward to them because they are seriously messed up, and I'm always wondering what will happen in the next one. So I take melatonin each night to help me sleep. I tried Lunesta once for about a week, but it turned me into a zombie and I couldn't write. I'll say this much for it: I slept, and I felt rested. But my brain was constantly foggy. So I'll stick with melatonin.
  20. I love flowers (Sherlock has a bit to say about my obsession with my roses) but can't grow them. I've tried. At one point, when I was teetering on that line between adolescent and adult, I said to myself, I will have plants! And I followed all the instructions. But they died. I planted seeds outside. Nothing grew. I bought the kinds of plants you're supposed to be able to forget or ignore. They died too. I bought plastic plants and they wilted. Finally Good Housekeeping and Better Homes & Gardens were starting petitions to prevent garden centers from selling me any more luckless greenery, and I said, What if I hire someone? Enter my gardener. I am now allowed to visit my yard mornings, afternoons, and alternate weekends, but only with supervision.

Television: The Office Series Finale

So after suffering through a couple weak and limping seasons, NBC's The Office finally closed its doors this past Thursday, and I'd say that while the conclusion was far from perfect I'm mostly satisfied.

The episode was structured largely around Dwight and Angela's wedding, piling on a "Where Are They Now?" panel as part of the aftermath of the PBS documentary. This is all occurring one year after the documentary's airing, mind, and the crew is back to get additional footage for the DVDs. How lucky for them, then, that most lingering questions were magically resolved on that very day! Nellie gets handed a baby (literally—how will she get it a passport, I wonder), Ryan and Kelly finally get together, Ellie finds her birth parents (Joan Cusack and Ed Begley Jr., the latter looking much like he's not sure where he is or why), and David is contributing to Oscar's senatorial campaign.

Oh, it's not all good news. Andy has failed as an actor (but is "happy" working for Cornell's Admissions Department), Creed has gone underground after the documentary leaves him open to a standing arrest warrant, and Toby and Kevin have both been fired, with Kevin now owning and running a local bar and Toby having moved to New York to be a writer—yet despite having six roommates, he's as lonely as ever.

In any case, the series finale tied things up neatly. If the goal was to learn where everyone ended up, it was achieved. If the goal was, however, to be satisfied with all the endings, then that's a matter of personal taste. I was glad to learn that Jim and Pam would be moving to Austin, not only because I lived there and love the city, but because I had not been altogether pleased with or sold on Jim's having forfeited his greater opportunities to remain at Dunder Mifflin. Better, then, that he and Pam came to a happy understanding—at least in my opinion. But things like this are so subjective . . . Many people may have preferred to see Jim and Pam stay, but I like the idea of growth and moving on, the end of an era (or documentary). I might have liked it if Dwight had invited Andy back to take Jim's place, but Andy had become so unlikeable by the end, and it would probably just have been awkward since Andy had once dated Angela. So maybe it's better this way.

Truthfully, The Office had lived a bit past its prime, so it was definitely time to say goodbye. I'll admit, though I'm no softie, I teared up a few times. And enjoyed the cats as wedding gifts. If the ending was a bit too pat in some respects, well, I'll give them a pass. Over at least seven out of nine years, the show regularly delivered smiles, so it comes out in the black in my ledger.


Books: Smiley's People by John Le Carré

I finally, finally finished this book. It took me ages because I kept putting it down and going to find something else to read instead. And it's not that Smiley's People is a bad book, just that I wasn't in the right frame of mind for it.

Truly, Smiley's People might be the better follow-up filmwise to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I mean, at least George Smiley is in most of it, and the ending is very satisfying. I found parts of it a bit of a slog, but that's true of almost every Le Carré book I've read. But because I like George, and in this book he is central rather than peripheral as in so many others, once I did find myself in the right mental space to read Smiley's People, I sailed through it. It was, in the end, enjoyable.

I won't go into too much detail, but the setup involves the deaths of some older agents, ones George had once worked with (his titular "people"), which tips George off to something bigger going on. Of course, George is retired and no one has time for him and his old hangups (read: Karla), so . . . Mostly alone in his task, at least until the final gathering of chessmen on the board as they seek to capture the opposing king, George puts his old-school skills to good use. And reaps the rewards of his long patience, his careful accumulation of information.

And so it's a good book. I enjoyed it more than many of the others in the series, maybe because it had more of George, or perhaps because in this one the ending is rather satisfying, which isn't always true of the other books. I think there are more that follow this one (not sure, haven't gone looking), but one could stop here and be happy.


Television: Elementary, "The Woman; Heroine"

How unlikely is it that a museum would allow priceless paintings out of its possession, to be taken into an unsecured flat for the restorer to work on? Apparently, though, this technicality is a springboard for Holmes to romance Irene Adler (in a flashback set in London two years prior).

Back in 2013, Irene Adler is confused; a "Mr. Stapleton" (from Hound of the Baskervilles?) seems to have traumatized her. Kidnapped her, made her psychologically dependent . . . Stuff of Gothic novels, really.

And of course Holmes blames himself, wondering what he missed, how he could have been tricked into believing Irene was dead. Declaring Moriarty smarter than himself, Holmes concludes he's better off staying with and caring for Irene than trying to figure out what happened to her or who Stapleton is. He brings her home from the hospital like a stray, and suddenly it's Three's Company. (Not really. Watson offers to move out, but Holmes insists she stay—it's up to Watson to follow the clues about Irene's disappearance, reappearance, and all things in between.)

Oh, and Irene has no family to speak of.

Okay, but the house Irene was found in belongs to a 9-year-old Austrian kid who has a caretaker check on it a couple times a year. And while canvassing (har) the place, Watson picks out a pigment she's read about while learning about art forgeries . . . A pigment made from a plant harvested in Vietnam, Cambodia and the like . . . And Holmes did just mention Irene's estranged brother was last heard of hanging out in those environs . . .

Then again, more likely someone local supplied Irene with her paints. But whom?

More flashback: in a date based on an Indiana Jones movie, Holmes & Irene visit Roman catacombs below London.

The flashback is interrupted by modern-day Irene screaming that Mr. Stapleton had changed the rules again. Then she quite calmly asks Holmes how he's been the past year and a half. Truthfully, at this point I don't much trust Irene, mostly because everyone seems to be laboring under the assumption she's a victim here and beyond reproach.

Meanwhile, the paint is traced to an Isaac Proctor, who shoots an officer and goes on the run.

And Mr. Stapleton magically leaves a white peony on Irene's pillow at Holmes's brownstone . . . Considering we've just heard Isaac being told over the phone that there was something Moriarty wanted him to do, I'm guessing we're supposed to conclude this was the job? But . . . Just as easy for Irene to have done it herself and start screaming after. Hell, Holmes could have done it (if one wanted to believe Moriarty wasn't real and this was all an extremely elaborate game he's playing).

Same is true of the flashback in which Irene leaves Holmes a voicemail asking her to meet him, and he arrives to find a ransom note poster(?!).

After the blood-curdling peony, Holmes takes Irene to a safehouse and tells her that, as long as she is in his life, Moriarty will use her against him.

Ah, but Watson discovers Isaac on the security cameras. He's the one who left the peony. Not only that, but additional digging has revealed Isaac once worked for the CIA as someone whose specialty was psychological pressure tactics.

But Irene has convinced Holmes to disappear with her instead of leaving her. So he comes to the police station to tell Watson goodbye. Of course, she argues this is exactly what Moriarty wants and therefore is a mistake, but he won't listen.

We learn that Moriarty has left standing orders that Sherlock Holmes not be touched. However Isaac, frustrated with Moriarty's obsession with Holmes, has decided to take matters into his own hands. "Sherlock Holmes is a dead man." Jesus, really? Who writes this?

Oh, but Irene's birthmarks are . . . wrong. Different. Setting Holmes off. "How long have you been working for Moriarty?!" But she starts trying some psychological pressure of her own. And after laying the guilt on thick, she tells him she never wants to see him again and walks out.

Holmes returns to the brownstone, only to be greeted by Isaac Proctor.

And then Moriarty shows up to save Holmes—and of course it's Irene Adler. (But using a British accent.) They are one and the same. Big surprise. (Again, not really.)

Lots of talking about who is better and smarter than whom. And then Moriarty leaves.

Watson comes home and helps stitch Holmes's wounds while he admits to being liberated by having learned the truth (it sets you free and all that). He is now set on figuring out Moriarty's scheme(s) in New York, since the only reason she would go to all the trouble of reappearing and putting him off his game would be if he were close to derailing one of her jobs.

Now we're back to the speakeasy story from last week. And a clue from a dead man's cell phone in the form of one of Moriarty's coded messages: BN23 Macedonian Sun. Seems to refer to a Greek cargo ship or possibly its ex-smuggler owner.

While staking out said cargo ship, Holmes tells Bell he finds it "energizing" to have a proper nemesis. Makes for better television drama, anyway, or it could if the writers could manage it. The lemurs in the back of the van, though—that was kind of fun. And I love Marwan.

Watson gets strong-armed into a car with Moriarty. And lunch. Moriarty asks Watson to warn Holmes away from her work; Watson reciprocates by observing that Moriarty must be afraid of Holmes else she wouldn't have gone to so much trouble.

Smuggled lemurs lead to a makeshift game preserve where Marwan's (he's Theo on the show but he'll always be Marwan to me) daughter Alethea and son-in-law care for endangered animals. But Alethea has been kidnapped, the son-in-law (Chad) cut out of the loop while Marwan deals with the abductors. And Chad has a Vicodin prescription . . .

Watson's story of lunch-by-decree (actually, they didn't eat) earns her and Holmes security details from Gregson.

And Moriarty? She's setting Marwan up to assassinate someone for her. That is Alethea's ransom, the price of her freedom.

(Political discourse on Greece and Macedonia, the EU and currency, the apparent reason for wanting to murder this particular man.)

"Let's say we go stop this bitch," says Watson. What she doesn't say aloud: "If only to stop me from getting another history lecture."

Gregson does his best to save the guy, but there's always an insider, right? Someone who lets in the bad guy. And the deed is done. And Marwan, knowing his daughter is safe, is also killed.

Insider guy tries to give a story, but Holmes traces the man to Sutter Risk Management (now renamed), and thereby to Moriarty. But it's all circumstantial.

Watson and Holmes argue over his behavior. He admits he didn't take the Vicodin he found because he knew Watson would be disappointed in him if he did. Then he tells Watson he's disappointed in her because she's telling him to step down for a bit.

To Holmes it must seem like Watson doesn't understand his need for work and stimulation to distract him from all that has happened with Moriarty. His frustration must be acute. His desire to best Moriarty—and therefore achieve closure—just as pressing. (And seeing as the assassination happened despite all Holmes's best efforts, he has not bested Moriarty at all.)

But of course from Watson's POV, this is all eating at him. He cannot sustain this pace. He's a backslide waiting for a place and time to happen.

And then . . . News of a drug dealer being beaten and robbed by a British man with his arm in a sling.

Holmes has locked himself in the bathroom. Watson's not home, but Bell is on security detail when Gregson calls to tell him about the robbery. Bell breaks down the bathroom door and discovers Holmes overdosed on the bathroom floor.

Moriarty visits Holmes in the hospital and tells him she wants to help him. He declines. "Would you prefer I just killed you?" she asks.

His answer: "Yes."

More psychological games as Moriarty tells Holmes that only she understands him, that she's leaving the country and wants him to go with her.

But we all know Holmes did this to lure Moriarty in. There was no overdose. And here's Watson, ready with Gregson to take Moriarty into custody.

Alas, no more nemesis for Holmes. For now.

But he does name a new species of bee after Watson. Nice.


Candles: Companies & Scents

I've written before about how much I love candles, and how particular I am about the various scents (no foodie smells, please!). I've recently purchased and been given a number of candles, so I thought I'd do a little post about the various brands and scents.

We'll start with Yankee Candle, which is one of the best known companies, at least in the south and on the east coast; now that I live on the other side of the country, I've found (at least in my immediate area) Yankee is not so well known. Well, they're Yankees, after all . . .

But Yankee Candle did open a store near us a few months ago, and we've since been in a couple times. And before that, having lived in Boston, I always had a few Yankee candles around the house.

Blue Hydrangea is one of my favorite scents, but last I looked, I couldn't find it. Yankee seems to be turning over their stock and scents quite rapidly. For example, I also really like Riding Mower, which is a stupid name, but the scent was fantastic as it reminded me of a childhood spent playing outdoors on a freshly shorn lawn. That seems to be gone now, too, replaced with something called Green Grass, which smells nice in the jar, but when I lit it, there was hardly any aroma to fill my office. You wouldn't have known I had a scented candle burning in there. Very weak.

I didn't like Pink Blush, either. But the new Lake Sunset is nice, sort of smells like you might imagine a Victorian doll shop would smell. (Oddly specific, but I used to work in a Victorian doll shop.) Cottage Breeze is a nice, fresh scent, too, but I understand that's also being discontinued.

For getting rid of (or at least overpowering) kitchen smells, we've found Black Coconut to work quite well.

Yankee is a familiar standby, but not necessarily the greatest of candle options (especially now that I can't get Blue Hydrangea). Still, I was more or less stuck with what I knew until a few months ago I was invited to a PartyLite candle party. Now, this is tricky because you have to order the products and then they are shipped to you . . . If you were to simply do it online, it would be a guessing game (or maybe you'd order based on color). At the party, the consultant had a kit with tiny samples so we could smell the various fragrances. One that I instantly fell in love with was Poinsettia & Musk—this was near the holidays, and this lovely red candle is not currently available. I also very much enjoyed Twilight Sea. And the Celestial Lights line based on zodiac signs is rather fun.

However, they are not perfect. I have to burn two Poinsettia & Musk votives to really be able to smell them, and the burning time is relatively short (they're gone in less than a full day). The big, two-wick Twilight Sea lasted longer and gave a stronger aroma. The Celestial Light candle I ordered definitely holds its own in terms of scent as well.

Finally, I was given a candle by a company I'd never heard of: Greenleaf. Worth linking to because it was a marvelous little votive, and I believe the scent was Classic Linen. Though this also lasted less than a full day, I adored the smell of it. And with the candle I was given a couple of Greenleaf's sachets, and they are fantastic. The only difficulty there was deciding which of my drawers to put them in. (Need to buy more; I can highly recommend Radiant Waters as a scent.)

I suppose the burning time issue might be more about the fact that I burn candles pretty much daily while working in my office. So when I say one can't smell the candles, that the aroma is weak, this is very true considering the candles are being burned in a closed environment. If you can't smell them there, you wouldn't be able to smell them much of anywhere.

If you know of any other candles/companies I should look into, I'd be happy to hear of them. Or if you can recommend another scent I might like, feel free to suggest it.


Television: Revolution, "The Longest Day"

Ugh. Is there anything worse than a lame love subplot? One that starts with the woman coming on to the guy and ends with her saying the next morning, "This was a mistake"? I'd say not, except there's also the whole Aaron-in-the-notebook thing, so I'm hard pressed to determine which is worse.

As for Miles and Nora—they were lovers once before, right? Isn't that their back story? So why should we be surprised, or even very interested, if they fall into bed together again? It seems like the writers, once again, are looking for ways to "layer" the stories, ways to up the tension. But they're going for all the obvious plots.

As for Aaron and Rachel, they have evidently spent the entire night with Aaron going, "Why am I in this notebook?" and Rachel saying, "I don't know."

And Rachel's broken leg? Good thing she took those nanites out of Danny after he died.

Monroe sends a couple fighter jets that fire missiles into the Rebel-Georgia headquarters, or encampment, or whatever it is. From 300 men to 30 in short order. And Charlie and Jason are missing. As Monroe's troops close in, Miles deduces there must be a mole that gave away their location. But who has time for that when he and Neville must make nice at least long enough to work together find their respective family members.

Oh, and get the survivors down to the boats.

Jacob (that's not his name, but that was his name on Lost, so that's how I always think of him) convinces Monroe to take a break and go have a drink with the boys, just in time for an assassination attempt. Coincidence?

This Week in Flashbacks: Seven years after the blackout, Rachel turns up in answer to Miles's summons (though he was looking for Ben). He wants to know if Ben—or Rachel—can get the power back on. Rachel throws his "Butcher of Baltimore" nickname in his face. Bad dialogue fills us in on his and Rachel's fling.

Monroe's paranoia kicks into overdrive. How did the assassin know he would be at the bar? How did Jacob escape being hit when he had nowhere to cover? If you guess this ends with Jacob dying, you're right.

Charlie manages to dig herself out of the rubble. (They'd found Jason some time ago but then been distracted by something shiny. Or bad guys. One or the other. Shiny bad guys?)

Rachel being a bitch as usual. Aaron slack-jawed as usual. Neville and Jason squabbling as usual. (At this point I'd had some rum and was beginning to tune out.)

Miles saves Charlie from a not-so-shiny bad guy (though his sabers were shiny). But then he can't find Nora. Seriously, this guy can't keep track of his women? How's he supposed to lead an army?

Monroe is shocked to learn the assassin, found to be a Georgian spy, was actually acting alone. Jacob has died in vain.

Stupid Romeo-and-Juliet subplot involving Charlie and Jason . . .

Best line ever: "God, you're useless."

Monroe has Nora, btw.

And unless Miles can do something brilliant, President Foster of Georgia will surrender to Monroe.


Television: Smash, "The Transfer"

Hit List is transferring to Broadway to give Bombshell a run for its money.

This is a nice way for the writers to satisfy both audience teams (Karen & Ivy): they both get Broadway shows! It also gives them a straight trajectory toward the next big tension point: instead of the competition being about who gets the role of Marilyn, it is now about who gets the Tony. Though Karen and Ivy have promised one another they will behave maturely no matter what happens. Doesn't mean anything, though, since they didn't pinky swear.

Another dramatic point: Julia being caught between both shows.

Alas, the move to Broadway has tripped up Anna as The Diva—she's making a lot of mistakes—and Derek decides to give Anna "a night off" and put in her understudy. Julia and Jimmy, on the other hand, feel the problem is the venue. Off Broadway the stages are on a level with the audience; on Broadway they are above, elevated—the world of the play is removed. Maybe Hit List doesn't translate so well because it's the kind of story that's meant to be close to the viewers.

Additional pressure: everyone always asking or saying whether the late, beloved Kyle would have wanted [fill in the blank].

Car commercial in the middle of the show.

Angling for more attention (and hopefully Tony noms), Tom is working on a revue for a gathering at the Oak Room. A blind item pinning Ivy with bad behavior and a leak to the press that Tom and Julia are splitting up . . . No such thing as bad publicity?

Jimmy and Julia decide to cull Kyle's old notecards to see if there's anything they can use to make Hit List's transfer any smoother. By using Kyle's ideas, no one feels bad for changing some of the book.

Meanwhile, Anna tells Karen her understudy (Daisy) may be blackmailing Derek to get Anna's role. (For those who may not remember, Daisy is the one who at one point had accused Derek of sexual harassment then apologized because being a snitch had come back to bite her and she'd been unable to land another part.) Turns out Daisy has a sex video of her and Derek that includes his promise she can be an understudy on Hit List, maybe even a star? So yeah. Blackmail.

This is kind of a sudden and stupid turn of events. Derek had been doing so well . . . Seems like the writers felt like they needed to do something more with him and this was the best they could come up with. (Or maybe they needed more for Anna? Is she still seeing Jimmy's brother? Guess not.)

Audience interaction via social networking . . . I've been reading about this in The Dramatist. How very timely of the writers to include it here.

We shouldn't have to listen to Debra Messing sing. Especially not a song about writers, over a montage. (Guess the writers wanted their own song? As a writer, I understand, but this wasn't a good song. I'll take "If I Could Just Get It on Paper" by Jimmy Buffett over this any day.)

As for all the press leaks: Eileen is the culprit (though Ivy believes it's Karen and their fragile truce falls apart; this is the downfall of not pinky swearing). Playing Bombshell up as Tom and Julia's last hurrah gives Tony voters impetus to vote for it, as if to reward a body of work epitomized in one final production.

With Hit List now ensconced on Broadway, Julia tells Jimmy she can no longer help him tool the show.

Oh, and Ivy is pregnant.

Television: Doctor Who, "Nightmare in Silver"

What used to be an amusement park has been shut down "by Imperial order," though the Emperor himself (of where or what exactly? doesn't much matter) is, in fact, missing. The park is now mostly in ruin, but there is a chess-playing Cyberman on exhibit (puppeted by a dwarf named Porridge). And two other Cybermen that don't do much of anything. Yet. But since we've been introduced to them, we know they will do something eventually.

Apparently the fallout of having been found out by her wards (Angie and Artie) is that Clara and The Doctor are required to take the children with them on this particular outing.

Meanwhile, weird insects (they look rather like landbound minnows) are running around. They appear to be key in "upgrading" the inactive Cybermen. Which, other than the ones on show here at the amusement park, are supposedly extinct. Except of course these three wake up and begin working on Artie, Angie, and a local bum named Empresario. (His name is supposed to make us believe he's the emperor in disguise, but we all know it's the dwarf, right? The statue even looks like Porridge, only taller.)

Really, it's all more or less a take on The Borg, as the newfangled Cybermen no longer seem to require an entire metal suit. Instead, flashing lights and a few metal implants do the trick.

Can I say, since we haven't spent much time yet with Angie and Artie, our ability to worry for them is foreshortened. Angie is kind of a priss anyway. I guess we're expected to care because they're children, for Christ's sake, and Clara and The Doctor are directly responsible for their well-being. But once again Doctor Who fails to connect the viewer with the characters, instead taking it on faith that we will care simply because we're supposed to.

The episode then spirals into a Jekyll & Hyde bit with The Doctor literally of two minds. The Cybermen are trying to "incorporate" him (as opposed to "assimilate," to use Borg lingo, as if there were a difference). The Doctor makes a deal with the Bad Cyber Doctor—yes, in his own head—to a winner-takes-all game of chess. Well, this should be engrossing. Who doesn't want to watch a bunch of chess in the middle of their favorite science fiction adventure show?

Because Cybermen are nigh impossible to kill, and because they work so quickly in reproducing (so to speak), the Imperial law now states that if you encounter a Cyberman and cannot kill it, you must destroy the planet. But Bad Cyber Doctor breaks the planet implosion trigger, so that option is off the table. Also, this is a really long game of chess. (Learning that the Time Lords invented the game perhaps explains why it's so long. Or maybe it doesn't.)

And an army of Cybermen has now turned up. From where? I'm sure I missed something there, but I don't care enough to go figure it out. They stop short of their goal when Bad Cyber Doctor, who is controlling all of them, must divert power to focus on the chess game. Which The [Good] Doctor wins.

And then they identify Porridge as the missing emperor and use his voice authorization to blow up the planet, escaping on the emperor's flagship just in time. Porridge proposes marriage to Clara, much to The Doctor's irritation, but of course she turns him down.

Once again, while the story seemed technically tight and well done, there was something missing in the execution. I was . . . mildly interested. But not completely engaged. And watching Matt Smith go spastic . . . Though I feel this was designed as an opportunity for him to showcase his talents, I failed to be wowed. Might've been the dialogue, though, which has been a regular problem. Things that are clearly meant to be clever, or funny, or clever and funny, often don't come across as such, so much as seeming to be trying too hard. And if we're supposed to be drawn into some idea that The Doctor is forming feelings for Clara (romantic feelings, that is, over his initial curiosity about her), the lack of chemistry between them speaks otherwise.

Overall, an okay episode, but also on the whole mostly disposable, having nothing to tie it to anything that has come before or after. It was a closed system, and it burned (or blew up) its bridges behind it. I suppose we could see Porridge again some day, but truly the story seems to be finished, with no compelling reason to revisit it. (The little silver minnows, on the other hand . . . Maybe?)

I guess what I'm most struggling with this season is that a show featuring a hero with two hearts hasn't managed to show or touch even one.


Television: Revolution, "The Love Boat"

Remember The Love Boat? I loved that show. Saturday nights, right before Fantasy Island . . .

Okay, but this show. Not really as much fun, despite dynamite. And did Miles just chloroform Martin Mull?

"General of my nuts"? Really? Who writes this stuff? I'd like to think Giancarlo Esposito could think up better stuff on his own. (Unless that was ad libbed. If so, he sucks.)

Anyway, the story at the moment is that Miles is a kind of honorary general (for Georgia) and he's also king leader of the rebels. And now President Foster of Georgia has also hired on Neville. Who brings Miles news of some kind of anthrax plot on the part of Monroe.

Neville tries to make nice with his son. It doesn't go well. Because the writers feel the need to keep the tension wires taut. (At least, they think they're making things dramatic, but it's all a bit overwrought.)

Oh, and Rachel and Aaron are still wandering around and haven't eaten in four days. Neither one of them is likable, and theirs is the Worst. Plot line. Ever.

And this is where we came in, with the Martin Mull thing.

Turns out Miles is no better than Monroe, kidnapping a doctor (not really Martin Mull, more like a bargain basement version of Paul Giamatti) and his family just as Monroe had done. Charlie and Nora are disgusted (by Miles's behavior, not by fake Paul Giamatti) and threaten to leave.

Of course Aaron and Rachel end up caught stealing food and then are threatened with capital punishment, except Rachel shoots first and wins. Then they run, and Rachel falls (pride goeth) and breaks her leg. She begs Aaron to leave her; it's more important that someone get to the Tower and Finish. This.

A routine inspection by Monroe officers of the boat Miles & Co. are holding the doc on . . . ends up being just more false tension. Though it does pit Neville against Charlie, forcing Miles to step in and threaten Neville should he ever lay a finger on his niece again. As if Miles ever needed more reasons to threaten Neville. ::shrug::

And then Charlie and Miles argue about letting the doctor and his family go. Charlie finally locks Miles into one of the boat's cabins. And Jason chloroforms his dad. Jesus, really? Was there a sale on chloroform this week?

Long story short, Charlie and Nora and a few supporters hijack the boat and reunite the doctor with his family. Not really the best episode of the Love Boat I've ever seen. Especially after Neville gets free and starts causing trouble again. And then Miles and then lots of guns. Same story every week, just a different setting.

But of course Miles and Charlie and the doctor and his family get away safely. And Neville comes back to base camp really angry. And then, because the writers decided they needed to get some sex into the show, Nora and Miles have a moment.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, Dr. Farraday's Warren's notebook includes a clipping about a young Aaron, somehow proving that Aaron must be the one to go to the Tower and turn turn the power back on.

Finally: horrible, bloody death in a mysterious elevator. Say goodnight, Gracie?

Television in Trimesters

Remember when the TV season began right around the time you (or, if you're older than me, your kids) went back to school and ended right around the time school let out for the year? (And yeah, I'm doing this on an American bias; school and television in other countries are different.) Back then—and it wasn't that long ago, folks, 'cause I'm not that old—it was assumed there was no reason to bother programming for the summer because people went out and did stuff. Like, took vacations. Or just spent time outside. So the summer television slate was filled with reruns of stuff people may have missed (and forgotten to set a VCR to record).

Then the DVR and cable's On Demand options began to change the television landscape. People didn't need to wait for summer reruns, didn't have to go to the hassle of figuring out their VCRs, because the cable box could save their shows for them. Or, even better, they could find the show On Demand and watch it whenever. Vacation wasn't just for summer any more.

On top of this, with the proliferation of WiFi and remote offices, of being always connected to one's job, true vacations became a thing of the past. Sure, go to Italy. Just don't forget your laptop and Blackberry.

AND . . . As we got busier, we got lazier. Our computer-centric lifestyles have made us immobile. We sit. A lot. And drive. A lot. And when we sit in front of the TV, we want something other than reruns.

So: people aren't going out in the summer any more, aren't spending their sunny days outdoors, are instead working 'round the clock and then flatlining their brains in front of the television. Year round. And they won't tune into your network if you don't offer them something fresh. So began the summer television season.

This was where the networks filled time with cheap, stupid reality programs (i.e., Wipeout) and the occasional evening game show (Who Wants to Be an Idiot While Everyone Is Looking?). Bonus: the nets could use the increased viewing to up ad revenue and promote new fall shows. Everyone wins! Except the actual viewers who are growing obese on their couches while their brains melt out their ears.

So for a while the model was: regular fall/spring season and then this other summer season. But the summer shows were light, not appointment viewing. They were fodder for the people too poor or busy or lazy to go out and do anything with themselves over the summer break. If you didn't watch over the summer, you weren't missing anything.

But at some point (and I'm too lazy to go track down the who, what, when, &c.) a show that didn't make it to the fall/spring schedule got "dumped" in summer. And people watched. Because there was nothing else on, or maybe they were curious, or both. The network was thinking, Gotta do something with this, we paid for it, might as well use it . . . And there it was: a summer TV show. Sure, a misfit, a reject, but something other than what had been airing. And it turned out those eight or twelve episodes that were produced fit neatly into that summer slot.

People have shorter attention spans these days. They get bored faster. Shows that once could stretch themselves over 22 to 24 episodes? Not if they keep using the same gags (sitcoms) or plot devices (dramas). And dramas are expensive to produce anyway. (Well, the good ones are.) But if networks—who were already fighting to survive against the influx of cable and Netflix streaming and so forth—could spend a little less money and test the waters? Suddenly, ordering only eight or ten episodes was okay. Because it could always go in summer if nowhere else.

Summer, which had once been nothing but months of Saturday-night specials, had become a viable option for showcasing new series.

And then . . . You know how really good ice cream shops supposedly have 69 flavors? The networks began to believe they should, too.

Look at it this way: You're a network executive who has ordered 13 episodes of something. You test it over the summer, and it actually does pretty well. But can it hold up against the fall/spring heavyweights? And how much time will it take to make more episodes? It can't be ready for fall, but it can be ready for spring . . . So you start changing things up. You get your fall slate ready. But you have a bunch of pinch hitters waiting in the wings. You can pull the plug on one thing and have something else in that slot without missing a beat.

You are now looking at, really, three potential television seasons. Fall: for existing shows that will run the traditional 20+ episodes. Fall(2): for the new shows that you want to try out on people but only have a few eps in the can. Spring: for plugging the dam—if any show is leaking viewers, you pull it and stuff in yet another show to see if that works better. And Summer: for those cheap reality shows and anything else you need to either test or burn off.

This is all network, mind. Cable has been doing the summer thing for a while, too, what with True Blood and Mad Men having been summer shows. And now each spring brings more Game of Thrones. Networks and cablers are juggling shows constantly.

This is better, right? Gives more shows a chance, gives the audience more choices?

Well . . . Yes and no. For shows, it does ideally give them more chance to be "tried out" but it also makes them that much faster and easier to replace. And of course the more shows there are, the more competition.

Also, remember the ice cream shop? Well, in some cases having a lot of flavors is great. Except . . . When one is so focused on doing so many different things, one doesn't always do any of them very well. Oh, sure, the vanilla and chocolate are pretty much what one would expect. No surprises there. And there's cookie 'n' cream and . . . Oooh, cotton candy fudge ripple? Let me try . . . Yech!

We think we want variety, but what we really want are our favorite flavors done well. That's why there are so many of the same types of shows on television. Procedurals. Jesus, there are a lot of those. But that's the vanilla, that's what a lot of people want, and it's what the networks do best. Crappy family sitcoms with stereotypical roles? Check. That's chocolate. Anything more complicated starts to be a hazard: Try this new flavor . . .

I don't think it's likely we'll go back to the old fall/spring viewing schedule. As older shows die out, we'll have more and more of the kinds of things that air in the fall and come back the following summer or fall, things that preem in spring and then reappear in fall, etc. A lot of moving parts. Forces viewers to pay attention if they don't want to miss their favorite shows. Because the balls are always in the air, and you never know where they might fall.


Television: Elementary, "Risk Management"

Moriarty hires Holmes to investigate the murder of a Wallace Rourke, who had been found stabbed in a alley, assumed victim of a mugging. If Holmes solves the case, Moriarty promises Holmes answers about Irene Adler.

And Gregson hits Watson up to act as sober companion for the daughter of a friend.

Wallace's widow Eileen lets Holmes and Watson take a bunch of Wallace's stuff to paw through. A story about a ruined phone and its replacement lead them to Sutter Risk Management, who supplied the new phone and used it to track Wallace. The Sutters themselves tell our daring duo they were hired to surveille Wallace based on alleged threats he made against a confidential client, but after determining Wallace was not a danger, they quit following him.

Meanwhile, in the most abrupt of conversations, Watson asks Holmes what Irene was like. And he willingly spills, even dubbing her "The Woman" (per Doyle's original). An American (so why cast Natalie Dormer? oh, because of her connections . . . Maybe they'll spin it that she was lying about that?) who restored Renaissance paintings . . . Hmm. Maybe Moriarty could use someone who fixes (or forges) old art?

Further research into Sutter v Rourke leads to the idea that Wallace was the lead suspect in a decades-old murder of Sutter's sister. But why would Moriarty want Sutter taken down for murder? How would Moriarty profit?

Gregson continues to nudge Watson toward the sober companion job in Boca Raton, and when Watson asks if he's trying to get rid of her, Gregson admits to a certain amount of concern for her welfare. Holmes, according to Gregson, manages to avoid bad luck, but the people around him (like Irene) get hurt.

Sutter turns up at the police station and confesses to the murder of Wallace Rourke.

Hey! Let's start a band and name it The Assassin Pimps!

Now. Moriarty tells Holmes that Sutter killed the wrong man (Wallace, according to Moriarty, was in Saudi Arabia at the time of the murder of Sutter's sister) and orders Holmes to find out the real murderer.

So the question: Is Moriarty pulling Holmes's strings just to watch him dance? Is this fun for him? Or does he have real use/need for Holmes? And is that need the reason he hasn't had anyone murder Holmes?

Looking at things via a more personal filter, Watson realizes that Sutter's wife may have sought to help her husband feel better by setting him up with the option/ability to find and kill his sister's murderer. You know, closure. Peace. (Because Watson would do the same thing for Holmes? No, probably not, but she'd understand Mrs. Sutter's motivation.)

As reward for his sleuthing, Moriarty sends Holmes an address. Holmes lies to Watson about it, but she's learned a lot from her mentor and, having tracked his phone, meets him at the large estate. Where one room is filled with paintings and art supplies. Oh, and Irene Adler. Called it! (In the fine print.)


Books: The K-Pro Giveaway on Goodreads

You can win a signed paperback copy of The K-Pro on Goodreads by entering here. Contest runs through May 20.

Since I wrote the book, I'm not going to review it, but I'll summarize the story to see if it's something you might like:

Andra Martineau is a K-Pro—a living good-luck charm with the ability to make people’s dreams come true. But when led to help up-and-coming actor David Styles, Andra’s presence seems to be more curse than blessing. With the help of David’s incorrigible co-star, Andra begins to realize the true nature of her power . . . and David’s hidden identity as well. Will she be able to save David from himself?

I'd call it a paranormal romance except there's nothing hot or steamy going on here (though there is an attraction of sorts). Editors I chatted with called it "paranormal women's fiction" or "fantasy women's fiction."

It's a quick, fun read anyway, perfect for summer.


iPhone 5

I got my iPhone 5 today. It's so light compared to my 4S that I'm almost afraid to handle it. I feel like I'm cradling a fragile baby bird every time I pick it up to use it.

Yes, I realize I'm behind. But I'm not the type to jump on the wagon the minute something gets churned out of the factory. I like to be sure the majority of the bugs are fixed first. And it's not such a necessity to me, having the latest thing. My 4S was working for me, so I waited until I was due for my upgrade before bothering to, well, upgrade.

And yes, I do also realize that if I'd waited a few months longer I might could have gone with the 6 or whatever it is they'll roll out next. But again, I don't care that much. Let everyone else queue up; I'm good with this.

My phone's name is Watson, and I enjoyed the seamless transfer from my old phone's backup. Everything is right where I'm used to it being. It's my old Watson in a lovely new body, I suppose.

Now I'm waiting for my new (personalized custom) iPhone case. I feel like Watson is a bit naked . . .


Movies: Iron Man 3

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley
Directed By: Shane Black
Written By: Drew Pearce, Shane Black
Marvel Studios, 2013
PG-13; 130 min
4.5 stars (out of 5)


Iron Man 3 (or Three, per the credits) is an old-school action flick that doesn't offer many surprises but provides solid entertainment. Since I got what I came for, I give it a near perfect score in that regard.

Here's the thing: IM3 gives me lots of RDJr. as Tony Sntark, a fair number of great acting moments for him to do what he does best, and a clean story line with no fluff. It isn't pretentious, doesn't try to be anything more than it is. Like Stark himself, the attitude here is: Take me as I am. Or don't. I don't care either way.

And based on box office, lots of people are taking Stark and IM3 up on that offer.

At the start of the film it is New Year's Eve 1999 and Stark is living it up in Switzerland, there for a conference and to make time with fellow scientist/researcher Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall, doing as solid work as ever with the little she's given). Hansen has been working on regeneration, starting with plants, getting them to repair and replace damaged or missing leaves and stalks. Stark and Hansen are approached by Aldrich Killian (Pearce) about some ideas he has but Stark blows him off. Without much trouble, anyone can see where this is going to go.

Fast forward 13 years and we have Stark holed up in his homemade R&D working on Mark 42 of the Iron Man suit. He hardly sleeps any more; ever since the alien attack of Avengers, Stark suffers anxiety and nightmares. But of course his real problems turn out to be much closer to home: Pepper is frustrated with him, there are terrorist threats from some guy called The Mandarin, and there's that guy from 13 years ago who's still really mad about that whole thing.

The story goes on a pretty direct route from there. Stark issues a counter threat against The Mandarin and gets Pepper kidnapped for his trouble. Follows a trail of info to Tennessee where he interacts with the requisite cute kid—and while many will groan, I have to say these were some of the nicest moments in the movie, not at all sentimental (not Stark's style), but with punchy barbs of humor. Stark is perhaps just another version of Lethal Weapon's Martin Riggs: that same brusque way of dealing with anything that gets too close to heartfelt, that same swagger and sarcastic self-assurance meant to hide an unstable and insecure core. Shane Black did it well then and he does it well now, even if it offers not a whole lot of new material.

The pacing here is good. Though the first 20 or so minutes made the kids restless and bored, before long there were regular enough action sequences to keep them engaged. And by the time the "Party Protocol" showed up at the end, everyone was solidly invested. (Well, okay, my three-year-old was asleep, but at least he wasn't fussing.) What's better than one Iron Man? Two! And what's better than two Iron Men? Lots more!

The dénouement was a bit of a cram down the throat as Stark hastily narrated several outcomes, but maybe that's just as well. As they say, once you're done, get out quick. Don't linger. You've hit your high point, your big climax, don't drag the audience back down with a lot of summing up. So maybe this was the only way—or at least the best way—to answer all remaining questions without taking up another 30–40 minutes of screen time.

I won't linger either. I'll just say I really enjoyed IM3. It's no piece of art, but it's not meant to be. But for what it is—solid action entertainement—it does its work efficiently and well.

SPOILER (highlight to read):

The one thing that did bug me was that they turned The Mandarin into comic relief. Kingsley did it well, but I didn't love that bit. I shaved off points for that.